The main objective of the European Union’s agricultural policy is to protect consumer health at all stages of production in the agri-food chain – from farming, to transport and slaughter, to packing and consumption. Its principles are based on 3 key pillars:
- ensuring high quality and safety of food and animal feed;
- ensuring a high level of protection of animal health and welfare and crop protection;
- ensuring provision of accurate and transparent information to consumers, among others, with regard to food origin, composition and storage conditions;
In terms of practical implementation of these assumptions, the European poultry sector is governed by extremely strict rules based on the requirements of the EU agricultural policy and other integrated provisions which constitute part of additional systems promoting standardisation of high quality and safety standards. One of the key elements that ensure full transparency of the EU production chain is a mandatory poultry identification system and continuous supervision exercised by veterinary services, which guarantee an adequate level of supervision over animal products from the time eggs are laid.
Standardisation of production processes mainly applies to poultry production plants, as well as rearing, feeding and record-keeping standards. All food production plants within the EU have an obligation to implement such standards, with the best-known ones being: Good Manufacture Practices (GMP), Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), Sanitary Performance Standards (SPS), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In addition, in order to ensure efficient quality management and to guarantee absolute safety, producers also use optional control systems, such as QAFP (Quality Assurance for Food Products). Their basic aim is comprehensive management of quality, safety and hygiene, as well as supervision and ongoing monitoring of the production chain. The implementation of such systems has a direct effect on such aspects of farming as: sanitary and hygiene supervision at all stages of production, ensuring the right rearing conditions, such as ventilation, lighting and adequate water and sewage systems, quality and cleanliness of raw materials and components used to make the finished product, as well as identification of any potential threats to food safety and supervision over the quality and origin of materials. Quality systems and production standards implemented in the European Union, supported by regular inspections by local veterinary services, guarantee full identification of each batch of poultry in line with the “farm to fork” principle and the principle of production transparency in place in the European Community.
Apart from a number of regulations relating to the infrastructure, farmers have an obligation to look after the welfare of animals throughout the production process by strictly complying with relevant principles of their maintenance, fodder use, slaughter and transport. Individual farming stages take place in hygienic conditions in accordance with adopted EU norms, which include, among others:
- a complete ban on adding any antibiotics, hormones or antimicrobial growth promoters to fodder;
- ensuring humane treatment of animals and ensuring adequate farming conditions, including provision of balanced fodder and compliance with strict sanitary conditions inside the farm;
- optimisation of the duration of livestock transport to the slaughterhouse in order to reduce ante-mortem stress;
- ongoing monitoring of animal welfare and keeping records at all stages of farming.
Airtight packaging systems and labelling systems for products of EU origin help guarantee provision of high-quality meat to consumers. By using vacuum packaging or MAP technology, contact with any microorganisms is reduced, which helps extend shelf life without using preservatives, while maintaining the right structure and smell of the meat.
In case of long-distance transport, the use of appropriate freezing processes guarantees freshness and quality of meat. All processes are performed in an environment which minimises the risk of contact with bacteria and contaminants. Whereas labels placed on the packaging of meat produced in the EU provide the recipient with plenty of information about the production process, conditions, and veterinary inspections. Only once all the procedures have been completed products are ready for sale. In case of poultry produced according to the QAFP system, the innovative MAP technology (Modified Atmosphere Packaging) is used and consumers can easily recognise such products by the QAFP logo placed on the packaging.
According to European production standards, the recipient should always receive a repeatable high-quality product. By harmonising the rules and ensuring transparency of the entire production chain, production safety is guaranteed and recipients are provided with complete information about the origin of their food. By choosing poultry bearing the QAFP logo, consumers can be sure that the producer has complied with high quality standards and implemented additional rules to ensure high quality at all stages of production.